Children's Books Daily - Interview (August 2020)
How did Children’s Books Daily get started?
I started blogging on the first incarnation of the Children’s Books Daily blog about eight years ago in what was a truly tumultuous time in my life. My brother had unexpectedly passed away, I had a newborn with reflux (hats off to anyone who have survived this – I SEE YOU) and an active toddler and my lifelong insomnia was out of control. A dear family friend, Tom De Spiegelaere decided that a blog would be a good way to fill the wee hours of the night, and keep all my reviews in the one spot. I’d been writing articles and reviewing books all over the place for a long time and Tom basically handed me my blog on a platter and said ‘write’.
At the time I was reluctant to add another blog to the plethora already out there – it felt like just adding more ‘noise’ to an already crowded online space. Tom quelled those fears with his assurances that that whilst there is a large number of blogs out there, if you find a niche and stay true to your aims and your writing style there will always be a readership to be found.
I only planned to blog until the end of my maternity leave but my children are now nine and twelve so clearly I fell in love with online writing and online connection. In the years since I began Children’s Books Daily I have posted hundreds of book reviews and blog posts around reading, have written a book, ‘Raising Readers’ (UQP, 2019) and have conducted more speaking engagements than I care to add up – although I do kind of *love* nattering on about books and reading so this is never a problem! Sadly, in this time I have also experienced the unexpected deaths of my favourite aunt and my beautiful husband, Dan Daley. I now often describe my online writing for Children’s Books Daily as ‘books with a side serve of grief’.
What are Children’s Books Daily’s goals?
Now see if I were a proper business person, I would be able to cut and paste these goals from a business plan that I review annually. However I have no idea what I’m really doing most of the time because as well as Children’s Books Daily I am teaching at St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, solo parenting, writing, teaching at uni and speaking at conferences, early education centres and schools.
Children’s Books Daily is a children’s and YA literature website and a particular focus (and now that I think about it goal!) is connecting educators, caregivers, creatives and librarians with great books for children – whether they be babies or young adults.
Another goal of mine is that Children’s Books Daily be seen as an online space and place where those who treasure children’s books and reading with children, can be a part of a community. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ so goes the saying, and it takes a community of readers to raise a reader in my opinion.
Goals. I am going to work on goals. I think I should have goals!
What resources/services do you provide?
Nowadays I think I see my book ‘Raising Readers’ as my biggest resource. It contains everything I’ve ever wanted to say to parents and caregivers about raising a reader, supporting a child through reading challenges, embracing reading as a part of your daily life and learning about life through carefully chosen books. I listened to a fabulous podcast today (Wilosophy – Tim Minchin Part 2) in which Tim Minchin said he wished Trump had been read more books and he talks at length about the power of story. It is so very true. Stories have the power to change lives.
So my book is my proudest resource, but my website has had a beautiful makeover of late and it is where I dump my brain (books + grief) and I hope that people find it useful, engaging and accessible. I won’t ever be accused of being an Instagram influencer, my website and socials have a large side serve of reality!
My website now offers a few e-course (childrensbooksdaily.com/btc) options with more to come. For a long time I’ve wanted to create some content that people can dive into deeply and come out the other side with a solid plan – in this case to create a book club.
Finally – I do lots of speaking engagements and can be booked to speak through contacting me via my website here (childrensbooksdaily.com/speaking).
How do you choose your review titles?
Oh dear! Here we go again with uncovering me as a not particularly professional business person (as if anyone thought I was!).
In order to first source books, I do a lot of browsing in local independent book stores, I subscribe to Riverbend Standing Orders in my work as a teacher librarian and I am sent lots of titles for review from publishers.
I read prolifically but I only review titles I love or which I think will be super useful for a particular age group or area of education. I wish I could review more titles, and I often think about reaching out to some of my favourite reviewers in the industry to see if they’d like to review for Children’s Books Daily, but I just plug away it and try to add reviews on a weekly basis. The new website has a great ‘filtering’ system, which makes a librarians brain happy, and these filters are useful for people looking for reviews of books for age or interest groups.
How can people connect with the Children’s Books Daily?
So many ways! The Facebook group, Your Kid’s Next Read, which I co-admin with Allison Tait and Allison Rushby has over 11,000 members now and is a fabulous space to connect about books and all things reading with you people. My social media is also a great place to connect with me on a more personal level and of course there is a contact page (childrensbooksdaily.com/contact) on my website.
You’ll find me at:
Your Kid’s Next Read: www.facebook.com/groups/276634156006126
Tell us a little about the Children’s Books Daily team.
Well apart from me, I also have the wonderful Justine as my Virtual Assistant and the super clever Mel Kroeger as teacher librarian advisor/writer of teachers’ notes! Justine is just about to take a spot of maternity leave and is being replaced by the most excellent Lana!
You can read all about us here (childrensbooksdaily.com/about).
What’s next from Children’s Books Daily?
No I have plans for more e-courses, maybe some downloaded e-books and I’d love to keep learning (I’m resisting a PhD but it will happen one day!) and sharing that learning with anyone who cares to listen to me natter on about the power of reading in the lives of young people.